The second wave of the highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus, majorly due to the delta variant caused great destruction and even before we could recover from the aftermath completely, scientists and doctors are concerned about another newly found variant of the Covid Delta - Delta Plus. While the lockdown curbs are slowly getting lifted in many places and people are making their way back to partial normalcy, doctors and medical professionals are growing quite concerned about the new range of symptoms associated with COVID-19's Delta Plus variant as there are fears that it could very well potentially trigger the third wave of Covid.
As of Wednesday, there have been at least 40 cases throughout the nation with the maximum numbers in Maharashtra, followed by Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. The State Authorities have now categorised this mutated variety as a Variant of Concern (VOC) and has asked chief secretaries of the 3 concerned states to take up immediate containment measures in the affected places and warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination”.
What Is The Delta Plus Variant?
Among the various covid variants circulating globally, within a matter of few weeks, there were reports of the delta variant undergoing further mutation in the spike protein to give rise to the Delta Plus Variant. The new Delta plus variant or AY.1 variant is characterised by the mutation called K417N — first found in the Beta variant originating in South Africa. Just like the delta variant, owing to its structure, this sub-lineage is more infectious and invades the human cells more easily than its predecessor.
Where Was The Delta Plus Variant First Detected?
This highly transmissible variant was first seen in Europe in March this year and later found in 9 other countries including USA, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China, and Russia. With the growing concern globally, virologists are looking to find out if this new variant may be able to escape pre-existing immunity better than either Delta or Beta.
What Makes The Delta Plus Variant So Dangerous And A VOC?
The different variants of an original strain are mainly characterised by changes or alterations in the genetic material of the original virus. SARS-CoV-2 virus being an RNA virus is made of about 30,000 base pairs of amino acids that are arranged like pieces of bricks next to each other. A change or alteration in any of these base pairs is mainly responsible for the mutation in the genetic sequence of the virus which effectively causes a change in the shape and behaviour of the virus. The Delta Plus variant mainly contains multiple mutations in the spike protein.
Since the Delta Plus variant carries the genetic code from delta variant which in turn carries genetic code from two other mutations, mainly E484Q and L452R, the structure of the spike protein becomes as such that it is more efficient in attaching itself to the human host cells and multiplies swiftly, thus invading into the human immune system and affecting the organs, doing more damage than the original Covid-19 strain. This extreme contagion due to the Delta Plus variant makes the State Authorities mark it as a VOC with the WHO continuing to observe its “significant increase in transmissibility”, “stronger binding to receptors of lung cells” and “potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response”.
What Are The Concerns Regarding The Delta Plus Variant?
Based on the data we received so far, since this delta plus variant contains the characteristics of its predecessor, its transmissibility rate may be much higher. There is rising concern in the medical community following warnings by experts that Delta Plus may show resistance against monoclonal antibody cocktail treatments such as the Roche and Cipla ones which are right now being used in the country for the Delta variant. Another potential risk that increased concern among most scientists and doctors is that the new variant may be able to bypass immunity provided by both vaccine and earlier infection.
Are The Vaccines Effective Against The Delta Plus Variant?
With only 40 infections being detected so far, it is too early to say whether Covishield, Covaxin or Sputnik V which are effective against the Delta variant would also be able to combat the Delta Plus variant but studies are conducted to gather more information.